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Frank Zappa - Hot Rats CD (album) cover

HOT RATS

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.33 | 1059 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Just jamming

For his final album of the 1960's, Zappa seconded a number of guest musicians including Jean Luc Ponty and Captain Beefheart. The performances though are primarily a duet between Frank Zappa and Ian Underwood.

The opening "Peaches in Regalia" is surprisingly orthodox and tuneful, with strong hints of Holst's "The Planets" in parts of the melody. The sprawling "Willie the pimp" is more traditional Zappa with a lengthy guitar workout and some dirty vocals from the Captain, the only singing on the album. The lyrics, which are published on the sleeve, make it apparent why this is effectively an instrumental album. The track is essentially a blues guitar work out, with little progressive development and a single pace.

"Son of Mr. Green Genes" which closes the first side is a long (9 minutes) jazz fusion recital. Zappa's guitar work here is exemplary, the track being relatively tight for what is essentially a jam. Underwood is given the opportunity here to display his multi- instrumental talents. For me, this and the preceding track are a little too indulgent though, both in terms of length and content.

"Little umbrellas" is the shortest track on the album, at just over 3 minutes. This mini- epic manages to cram more changes of style and sound into its allotted time, than the other tracks do in total. From the shortest we are straight into the longest, "The gumbo variations" running to almost 13 minutes (the LP times appear to differ from those of the CD). I have to say that to my ears, the inordinately long, unstructured sax solo which occupies about half of the track is second only to an endless drum solo in terms of tedium. Thankfully, violin eventually assumes control, albeit still in full jazz improvisation mode. The album closes with "It must be a camel", a slower number which is otherwise more of the same.

"Hot Rats" is an album which falls outside my normal boundaries of taste. I readily admit however that it has many redeeming features, with a high quality cast list and some fine instrumentation. Zappa's guitar work is superb if at times over indulgent. Where there is an element of structure to the music, such as on "Peaches in regalia", I find the album to be rewarding. Where however the musicians simply indulge in long unfocussed jams, I have to move to the other side of the road.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |

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